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From Ask a Science Teacher: 250 Answers to Questions You’ve Always Had About Everyday Stuff Really Works, Copyright © Larry Scheckel. Reprinted with permission of The Experiment, LLC.

chemistry and chemicals. Consider a choking green gas such as chlorine. Ponder sodium, a nasty metal that is silvery and soft and that reacts violently with water. But put them together and we get a substance that no cook could live without-salt. Biology is the study of living things-their structure, function, growth, classification, and reproduction. Here lies a vast study of how cells divide, why we have blood types, how DNA holds the secrets of genetic coding, how tissues and organs age, and how the brain of a dog’s owner is different from the brain of the dog. We’ve just mentioned the Big Three sciences. Within these main categories is an endless world of in-depth study in over fifty specific branches of science, from astronomy to geology to zoology. In addition to science being just plain fun, there are some impor- tant and practical reasons for studying science, for the benefit of everyone, not just the few or the elite. Whether a singer, janitor, farmer, or nuclear physicist, it is important for a person to think scientifically and make decisions based on solid information about the world. Even arcane questions about whether to smoke or not, what to eat, or which car to buy depend on scientific facts. Some people, like policy makers in business and government, make decisions that affect many other people. They deal with national and international questions of population growth, environmental concerns, nuclear power, climate change, and space exploration and with state and local questions of water and sewer treatment, highway and bridge construction, what trees to plant along the boulevards, and school construction, to name a few, all of which are best resolved if the solutions are based on scientific principles. And responsible voters need enough science sense to be able to evaluate candidates’ positions on these questions…. …Jules-Henri Ponincaré (1854-1912), THE French engineer, physi- cist, and mathematician, said “The scientist does not study nature because it is useful; he studies it because he delights in it, and he delights in it because it is beautiful. If nature were not beautiful, it would not be worth knowing, and if nature were not worth knowing, life would not be worth living.” 145. What exactly is science? The word “science” comes from the Latin word “scientia” meaning “knowledge,” and is defined as “knowledge of something acquired by study.” Science is the study

PREFACE

Why study science? That’s a question that many students, and indeed adults, ask. It is a very good question because it gets at the heart of what science is: think of science as a tool for answer- ing the basic questions of how things work and why things are the way they are. The true value of science is learning about the world around you: a fundamental understanding of the principals of sci- ence allows us to delve deeper into the mysteries of the universe. Different branches of science explore different realms of our world. Physics is the study of matter and energy and how they interact with each other. Newton’s laws of motion and gravitation, for example, are central to grasping the mechanisms of rocket, satellites, roller coasters and cars. Physics can allow a person to appreciate fric- tion when applying disc brakes on a car or trying to minimize this speed-reducing forcewhile constructing a pinewood derby race car.

Chemistry is the study of the composition, properties, and behavior of matter. Everything we see, feel, smell, taste, and touch involves

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